[[caption-width-right:300:He wants the filth off the streets. If the police can't do it, he will... his way.]]

->''"People like the idea of revenge. You ever hear the expression, 'The best revenge is living well'? It means supposedly the best way to get back at someone is just by being happy and successful in your own life. Sounds nice. Doesn't really work on that Creator/CharlesBronson-kinda level, you know what I mean? Those movies where his whole family just gets wiped out by some street scum. You think you could go up to him, 'Charlie, forget about the .357. What you need is a custom-made suit and a convertible. New carpeting, french doors, a divan! That'll show those punks!'"''
-->-- '''Creator/JerrySeinfeld'''

A 1974 action-crime-drama film based on [[Literature/DeathWish the 1972 novel]] by Brian Garfield (who also wrote ''Film/DeathSentence''). The film was directed by Michael Winner and stars Creator/CharlesBronson (the actor, not [[Film/{{Bronson}} the prisoner]]).

New York architect Paul Kersey has his world shattered forever when his apartment is attacked by three vicious punks, who murder his wife and rape his daughter. After being sent to Arizona by his boss to meet with a client, Kersey takes an interest in guns and eventually has one slipped into his bag by the client as he's preparing to return to New York (this film was made back before things like hijackers and airline security were an issue). Upon his return, Kersey starts dispensing justice to the scum on the streets, shooting down any mugger that tries to rob him. The police want him arrested, but the public are behind him, glad that someone's doing ''something'' to clean up the streets. Kersey is eventually asked to leave New York to avoid prosecution, much like the Old West vigilantes of long ago.

The film was a major commercial success and generated a movie franchise lasting four sequels over a twenty-year period. The film was denounced by critics as advocating vigilantism and unlimited punishment to criminals (and by Garfield - see CreatorBacklash in Trivia), but it was seen as speaking to a growing mood in the United States as crime rose during [[TheSeventies the 1970s]].

For a character ''with'' a death wish, see DeathSeeker.

The ''Death Wish'' Pentalogy:

* ''Death Wish'' (1974)
* ''Film/DeathWishII'' (1982)
* ''Film/DeathWish3'' (1985)
* ''Film/DeathWish4TheCrackdown'' (1987)
* ''Film/DeathWishVTheFaceOfDeath'' (1994)

!!These movies provide examples of:

* AttemptedRape: There are some rapists that Paul manages to shoot before they can start anything.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: Paul is a pacifist, but he learned to use guns during his younger years despite later serving as a combat medic in the UsefulNotes/TheKoreanWar. And it shows.
* BigBad: [[AvertedTrope Averted]], as there is no singular main villain.
* TheBigRottenApple:Both the original film and its New York-set sequels depict a city where violent crime is so out of control that citizens are forced to take vigilante action.
* CartwrightCurse[=/=]DisposableWoman: Kersey's wife. One of the series' most notorious traits--his daughter in the second, girlfriends in the third, fourth, and fifth films, numerous non-Kersey women in all films -- basically, if you're female and hang around Paul Kersey, you're pretty much screwed.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: The original film is a gritty, realistic, look at urban decay and out of control crime in major American cities during the era. The movie was such a hit largely because it embodied the feelings of many honest citizens at the time. In the end there is no dramatic showdown with the men who killed his wife and raped his daughter, they simply disappear into the city and Paul will never know who they were. There's little graphic violence, but what there is very disturbing. Nothing in the movie could be defined as gratuitous. The sequels all follow all the clichés avoided in the original.
* KarmaHoudini: The three muggers and rapists from the first film, who start Kersey's road toward vigilantism, are never caught by the cops or killed by Kersey. In the sequels, however, the trope is averted; if you're a bad guy, then you're not leaving the movie alive.
* TheLopsidedArmOfTheLaw: The movies showcase repeatedly that the police is incapable of doing anything about the immense crime waves assaulting the cities and has all but called it quits, but put out all the stops to hound anybody who tries to fight back (even out of their jurisdiction). On the first movie they are afraid that the vigilante may escalate or that people fighting back may force the crooks to become even worse, but on the rest of the films this is shown as them not wanting to be shown over, thinking ItsPersonal, or wanting to get rid of a problem because they are [[DirtyCop Dirty Cops]].
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: After Paul kills his first man, he is so horrified by what he just did that he runs home and throws up. He quickly becomes more comfortable with killing.
* NewYorkSubway: Two muggers try to rob Paul on the subway. [[ForegoneConclusion They do not survive]].
* PhallicWeapon: While at a gun range in Tuscon, Arizona with his client Ames Jainchill, Kersey mentions he was a Conscientious Objector during the Korean War.
-->'''Ames:''' I suppose you're one of those liberals who think [[FreudWasRight our guns are a substitute for our penises]].
-->'''Kersey:''' I never thought about it that way. Maybe it's true.
-->'''Ames:''' Maybe. But this is gun country.
* TheQuincyPunk: Like most Cannon Films, the thugs are primarily punks and all punks are thugs.
* RapeAsDrama: Kersey's daughter was raped and his wife was killed, all for drama and motivation. Also the rape/murder is played for [[GratuitousRape exploitation turn-on]], which makes all of the subsequent action seem more than a bit hypocritical.
* RatedMForManly: The original film follows the transformation of Paul Kersey from pacifist to killer who deals his own brand of justice. And the entire series depicts the tough guy vigilant as a manly hero.
* RealityEnsues: Only in the first film where the attackers are never seen again. Sadly with that type of crime, and forensics at the time, the only evidence would be the description of a traumatized victim. Modern day audiences likely assume the climax will be a confrontation with the guys who raped his daughter and murdered his wife, but how would he even know who they are?
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: When the first movie starts, Kersey is essentially a pacifist until his wife is murdered and his daughter raped into catatonia, then turns violent against criminals. While all five of the films have Kersey seeking vengeance, ''Death Wish II'' is perhaps the one that most resembles this particular trope.
* SequelHook: The movie ends with Kersey, at an airport, [[GivingSomeoneThePointerFinger pointing his finger at some muggers like a gun]] while smiling.
* SockItToThem: Kersey gets worth of rolled quarters, puts them into a sock, practices swinging the flail around in his apartment, and then carries it around during the day. Soon someone with a knife tries to mug him, and a single hit makes the other guy drop the knife and try to run away, go headfirst into a wall, and then stumble off.
* StressVomit: After Kersey kills his first mugger, he goes home to the bathroom and throws up in his toilet.
* UnbuiltTrope: The ''Death Wish'' saga pioneered the urban VigilanteMan concept, but it also showed how dangerous it would be.
* VigilanteMan: ''Death Wish'' is probably the TropeCodifier for this character type in media. Also an UnbuiltTrope as the film pioneered the urban vigilante concept, but it also showed how dangerous it would be.
** A decade after the film was released, a real life urban vigilante incident took place in New York; the Bernie Goetz case.
* WretchedHive: A New York City were gangs and solitary muggers roam the streets and the subways. Citizens live in fear and the police seem to offer no safety.